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  Quatermass 2 Rock Horror
Year: 1957
Director: Val Guest
Stars: Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn, Vera Day, Charles Lloyd Pack, Tom Chatto, John Van Eyssen, Percy Herbert, Michael Ripper, John Rae, Marianne Stone, Ronald Wilson, Jane Aird, Betty Impey, Lloyd Lamble, John Stuart
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) is driving to his research centre in the British countryside when he just about collides with a car swerving all over the road. Both vehicles come to a halt, and Quatermass leaps out, demanding an explanation only to see that the couple behind the wheel are in a distressed state. The woman tells him that she and her delirious boyfriend were out for a picnic when meteorites began slowly landing around them, and when the boyfriend picked one up to examine it, the rock burst open and injured his face - now he is acting very strangely. After sending them off to a hospital, Quatermass takes the two halves of the rock back to his laboratory, where it so happens that his assistants have been tracking something falling from the sky...

Still a potent name in science fiction today, and a benchmark for that mixture of dread, scares and imaginative storylines, this was the second Quatermass movie to be adapted from Nigel Kneale's celebrated British television serial. And like the first, this was a Hammer production, the studio already was on its way to securing a reputation for blaring cinematic unease as their reworking of Mary Shelley's classic, The Curse Of Frankenstein, was released the same year. This one, unlike it predecessor, was scripted by Kneale with director Val Guest, and makes more of the central character.

And the Professor is still played by Donlevy, of course, a situation that didn't please Kneale too much, but as this still brusque, still forceful despite everyone else's feelings incarnation, he doesn't harm the film too much as it needs a man who will push forward the investigation no matter what the cost. Because along with the storyline's keenly felt paranoia is the British mistrust of bureaucracy that informs it, the sense that the powers that be, with their files and forms to be filled out, have a malicious reason for not making life easier.

What also informs the story is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the most obvious area that Quatermass 2 is inspired by. And as a UK version of that, it may not hit the heights of the then-recent Don Siegel film, but it's pretty close, as well as handily including a few giant blobby space aliens for that last act thrill - a trick that the American movie sadly missed out on. When the Professor arrives back at his lab, he has bad news, yes, those officials have turned down the funding for his project. It's a moonbase scheme, which he has meticulously planned, even going as far as having a space rocket on the launch pad outside.

So imagine Quatermass' surprise when he's out investigating the meteorites on the moors with his assistant, Marsh (Bryan Forbes), and sees some kind of plant there which looks familiar. Someone has built his moonbase out in the English countryside, but to what purpose? He doesn't have much time to ruminate, as his assistant uncovers a complete meteorite and is promptly injured by it when it pops open, then suddenly they are surrounded by guards who knock the Professor to the ground and take Marsh away. Lots more intrigue is on the way, as the fear that scientific progress is being corrupted is mixed with surprise that Sid James should turn up as a newspaperman trying out an American accent (one U.S. accent is enough, I think). Reliable entertainment, Quatermass 2 is a gem from the earlier years of British film fantasy with solid moments of horror. Music by James Bernard.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Val Guest  (1912 - 2006)

British writer, director and producer, best known for his science fiction films, who started on the stage, graduated to film scriptwriting (Will Hay comedies such as Oh! Mr Porter are among his credits) in the 1930s, and before long was directing in the 1940s. He will be best remembered for a string of innovative, intelligent science fiction movies starting with The Quatermass Xperiment, then sequel Quatermass II, The Abominable Snowman and minor classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

He also made Frankie Howerd comedy The Runaway Bus, Cliff Richard musical Expresso Bongo, some of Casino Royale, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, 1970s sex comedies Au Pair Girls and Confessions of a Window Cleaner, and his last film, the Cannon and Ball-starring The Boys in Blue.

 
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